VA/I-95 Express Lanes toll concession signed + financial close = start next week
By Peter Samuel
2012-08-01: Virginia DOT and 95 Express Lanes LLC (90% Transurban, 10% Fluor) signed a 'comprehensive agreement' and went to financial close July 31 on a $925m project to widen and lengthen central reversible lanes and manage traffic with dynamic tolling. There's a groundbreaking in a few days - August 7.
The project in which the investors carry most of the traffic and revenue risk will upgrade the capacity and management of the major southwestern radial out of the Washington DC/Northern Virginia metro area.
It was originally planned to start at the Potomac River bridges from DC near the Pentagon on the Shirley Highway (I-395) in Arlington County 10 miles southwest to the Springfield Interchange with the Capital Beltway (I-495). And then it would continue on I-95 29 miles to Stafford.
After several years of litigation against the project by Arlington County VDOT in 2007 cancelled it - a serious blow to mobility inside the Beltway. The project was restarted with only the I-95 portion outside the Beltway.
76 year toll concession
VDOT maintains ownership of the assets to be built by the concessionaire 95 Express Lanes LLC, which has a 76 year toll concession during which it hopes to recover its investment and make a return on capital after its operating and rebuild expenses. Its 3-lanes reversible in the median will be competing with three free lanes each direction in the I-95 funded by taxpayers and maintained by VDOT.
Key components of construction are:
- widening existing HOV lanes from two to three lanes the central reversible facility for 14 miles between Edsall Road on I-395 just inside the Beltway to Prince William Parkway
- making improvements to the existing two lanes for six miles from Prince William Parkway to Dumfries Rd, VA234
- extending from Dumfries Rd VA234 nine miles to Garrisonville Road, CR610 in Stafford County the 2 lanes reversible facility
- adding eight new or improved access points to and from the high occupancy/toll facility at key interchanges
- expanding and adding commuter parking lots
Part 3-lanes, part 2-lanes
The completed facility will be 3-lanes reversible for about half its length south. That takes it to Prince William Parkway CR3000.
It then becomes 2 lanes reversible in its southern half to Garrisonville Rd CR610 in Stafford Co.
Construction is due for completion late 2014.
The VDOT announcement: "HOV-3+, vanpools, motorcycles and buses travel free. Vehicles with one or two people will pay a toll to use the express lanes or ride the general purpose lanes for free. Tolls will vary based on real-time traffic conditions to manage the number of toll-paying customers who choose to enter the express lanes. Most customers are expected to pay to use express lanes only a couple of times a week when they need a faster trip, with a typical trip during rush hour costing between $5 and $6."
Governor McDonnell: "This is a historical day for transportation and the economy in Virginia. In partnering with the private sector, VDOT is leveraging nearly $1 billion dollars in congestion relief for the heavily traveled Northern Virginia region. Virginia is taking bold action to move more people with fewer cars by giving them more transportation choices that will save time and money, and improve the environment."
Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton: "The 95 Express Lanes combined with the nearly completed 495 Express Lanes will bring a transportation network that manages congestion efficiently, saving time and better connecting commuters with some of Virginia's most important employment centers and military sites."
VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley: "The project will bring transportation choices to commuters traveling to and from the Northern Virginia region. For the first time, commuters will have HOV access on I-95 from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road. North of Dumfries, the existing HOV lanes will be improved, resulting in better services for existing carpoolers and congestion relief."
Michael Kulper head of Transurban North America: ""Virginia has again demonstrated its leadership in using innovative public-private partnerships to help deliver major transportation and economic outcomes. The 95 Express Lanes will link directly to the new 495 Express Lanes to provide travelers throughout the region with faster and more predictable travel."
The facility will have some national security value in that it passes close by several major military bases and the project provides for some improved ramp connections.
Some 3,300 extra parking spaces are being built at four park-&-ride bus stations along the route.
The 95 Express Lanes will link with the southern end of the 14 mile long Capital Beltway 495 Express Lanes at the Springfield Interchange, so there will be a continuous toll managed lane facility in the peakhour of 43 miles length to Tysons Corner.